Having shingles is associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart attack later in life, a new study shows.
Researchers from University College London found that having shingles before age 40 is associated with a 74 percent higher risk of stroke, a 50 percent higher risk of heart attack, and a 2.4 times higher risk of transient ischemic attack (a warning sign for stroke).
Heart attack risk was also higher for people who had shingles after age 40 (though not as high as for those under age 40). People who had shingles after age 40 had a 15 percent higher risk of transient ischemic attack and 10 percent higher risk of heart attack.
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox -- varicella-zoster -- and triggers rash symptoms.
The study, published in the journal Neurology, is based on data from 106,600 people who had shingles and 213,200 people who never had shingles. Researchers looked at the participants' health data for an average of six years (and as long as 24 years) after being diagnosed with shingles.
It is possible to be vaccinated against shingles; however, researchers noted that more research is needed to determine if receiving a shingles vaccine can decrease risk of stroke and heart attack.